Zardari’s warnings to Petraeus are aimed only at his domestic audience.
First, the “democratically elected” Pakistani government took offence to the cross-border raid by US ground forces inside Pakistani territory. There have been no further reports of cross-border raids by the US ground forces since. That may have been done partially to cater to Pakistani sensitivities, but certainly the main reason was because the US military might be finding such operations riskier and of limited tactical benefits vis-a-vis aerial strikes by unmanned drones.
Then, on October 29, the Pakistani government summoned the US Ambassador to Islamabad, Anne W. Patterson to demand a halt to air strikes on its soil by American forces, saying the operations weaken the ability of the government to fight terrorism. A missile from a US drone killed 27 people in Kari Kot in Pakistan’s South Waziristan district on October 31, signifying that such démarche did little to alter US military strategy in the border areas of Pakistan.
President Zardari has repeated these warnings to General Petraeus during his maiden visit to Islamabad as the head of the US Central Command.
“The focus should be more on enhanced coordination and intelligence-sharing,” Zardari told the U.S. officials today when they met at his residence during a visit to Pakistan, according to a Pakistani government statement. The cross-border raids from Afghanistan have killed Pakistanis and destroyed property, “creating a credibility gap” as members of the public pressure their leaders to explain the U.S. actions, Zardari said.
And Petraeus’ reply was nothing more than a polite acknowledgement.
“In fact, we got certain messages with each of those we talked today and some of those were very clear and we have to take those on-board,” Petraeus said Monday, adding later, “The tone of the conversation was very frank and very forthright, as it should be.”
President Zardari and his government have little control over the actions initiated by the US forces in Pakistani territories bordering Afghanistan. The Pakistani state and its military are so dependent on US dole that any belligerence by the Pakistani security forces inviting the US wrath is likely to bring the Pakistani nation at the brink of an existential disaster.
Unlike Musharraf, Zardari is the head of a political party that runs the federal government in Pakistan. He has to per force make the right noises to address the concerns of his domestic constituency. However rather than pacifying the anti-US sentiments in the country, such publicly reported warnings by Zardari only tend to strengthen the public portrayal of the US as a satanic state that cares little for Pakistan and its elected government.
So will the drone attacks inside Pakistan by US military stop now? They may stop, but that will have nothing to do with Zardari’s warning to Petraeus and Boucher. It will only result due to a dramatic, but unlikely, shift in the US military strategy for tackling insurgency in the region. President Zardari would be hoping against hope that Dave Petraeus is the catalyst for that change in the US strategy.